The Hidden Health Risks of Food Dyes
How bad is Red 40 and more synthetic dyes?
Live or Let Dye
The three most widely used culprits—Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40—contain compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl, that research has linked with cancer.
Research has also associated food dyes with problems in children including allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, irritability and aggressiveness. A U.S. study published in Science found that when children who scored high on a scale measuring hyperactivity consumed a food-dye blend they performed worse on tests that measured their ability to recall images than when they drank a placebo. A 2007 British study found that children who consumed a mixture of common synthetic dyes displayed hyperactive behavior within an hour of consumption. (These children had not been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD.) The results, published in The Lancet, prompted Britain’s Food Standards Agency to encourage manufacturers to find alternatives to food dyes. In July 2010, the European Parliament’s mandate that foods and beverages containing food dyes must be labeled as such went into effect for the entire European Union.